'Don't let this game into your homes': Shropshire headteacher’s plea over video gaming
A primary school headmaster has called for stricter household regulations on video games that are considered 'violent' and of a 'sexual nature'.
Martin Stott, of the Old Hall School, Wellington, Telford, has written to parents after concerns from teachers in the Upper School when it came to overhearing children's conversations – talking about Fortnite (rated 12) and Grand Theft Auto V (rated 18).
He has also spoken of concern about the unregulated use of YouTube, and the time children are spending playing games or using the video hosting website.
In his letter to upper school parents Mr Stott "implores" parents not to allow Grand Theft Auto into their homes.
He said: "I write to share some worries which have been expressed by the Upper School staff in regard to online games that are being played by the children and also about the unregulated use of YouTube by some pupils.
"Whilst we appreciate that the dark nights through the winter make the use of online games and YouTube a popular activity, we are concerned that some of our pupils are spending too much time on such activities and this may be happening in some cases without your knowledge.
"We are particularly concerned about Fortnite (PEGI rating of 12 years old), which has been proven to be particularly addictive. It has come to our attention that some children are playing this game in the morning before school and that conversations and arguments about what has happened online are ensuing at playtimes. PEGI states that 'Fortnite' contains 'frequent scenes of mild violence' and that 'it is not suitable for persons under 12 years of age'.
"We appreciate that it is an attractive game to many and, used in moderation, can be relatively harmless compared to other things which can be accessed online. However, it can also lead to emotional and behavioural problems and feed addictive tendencies.
"We are also aware that some children have had access to a particularly unpleasant game called 'Grand Theft Auto', which contains graphic images of both a violent and sexual nature – we would implore you not to allow this game into your houses."
Mr Stott said he believed that internet activity can hamper development, and that parents will not always know what their children are doing.
He said: "At a time when we are trying to help children develop their emotional intelligence and the ability to cope in the real world, we feel that some children's development is being hampered by their online activity, when headsets are on, eyes are transfixed on screens and thumbs are glued to control buttons. Whilst your child has headphones on, it is very difficult to know what he/she is hearing in terms of inappropriate language from others who may not be being monitored by parents."
He has called on parents to stop children playing games before school, and make sure that their relationships with people are "not predominantly virtual, rather than real".
He has also urged parents not to let their children use screens before bed and to ensure that they are using the parental controls available on machines.
Take part in our poll:
He said: "I know that some parents use their parental controls very successfully to limit time spent online. For example, on xBox live, you can limit your child's time to what you feel is appropriate per week.
"I would respectfully ask you to review your child's use of the internet and access to games and YouTube, so that we do not have to deal with the fall-out at school.
"I am certain that many Old Hall parents have strong feelings about using the internet and that sensible controls are in place. However, if everybody was to stick to the suggestions made above, it could really help to improve the children's social development both outside and inside school.
"Please don't think this is a problem unique to Old Hall – colleagues in all other schools have the same (and much worse) difficulties resulting from the misuse of technology.
"As a staff, we would simply like to encourage parents to take control en masse, so that our pupils’ social and emotional development is not impaired and so that The Old Hall School develops an even stronger reputation for leading the way in caring for its pupils’ well-being. If we work together on this, we believe the children will benefit in a number of ways, including a reduction in peer pressure."